Keeping Russia’s pellets rolling

January 09, 2014

The Karelsky Okatysh iron ore mine, located in the Russian Republic of Karelia, continues to increase its production year on year, irrespective of fluctuations in metal prices.

At a time when many mining companies are reducing their output to adjust to lower demand, Russia’s Karelsky Okatysh iron ore mine continues to increase production with a positive outlook on the future.

The reason is that this young mine, founded in 1982, is now reaping the benefits of investments it has made over the last few years in modern technology and automation solutions.

Karelsky Okatysh is owned by Severstal, the second largest producer of iron ore pellets in Russia, and one of the world’s most profitable steel producers. It is also one of Russia’s most modern mining operations, accounting for some 20 percent of the country’s iron ore.

“We liked the DM-M3 because it allows us to drill a larger diameter hole, giving us more blasted material per meter. Having four DM-M3s at work drilling these large holes has enabled us to increase our blast production”

Denis Golubnichy, Chief Mining Engineer

The nearest town is Kostomuksha, about 12 km to the southwest, which has more of the look and feel of a college campus than a typical mining settlement. Here, more than 5 000 people out of a population of 30 000 are engaged in the mining industry in one capacity or another.

The ore from this region is magnetite quartzite which produces high quality pellets with an iron concentration of up to 68 percent. Four pits are active on the site with two of them responsible for most of the output – Central and Korpanga – which have a combined lifespan of 34 years and probable reserves of 480 billion tonnes.

Central Pit, which was the first to be mined, and will probably be the last, is the largest one. It is currently 5 km long, 2 km wide and 300 m deep and will eventually reach a depth of 460 m.

The mine’s drill and blast fleet includes four DM-M3 diesel rotary blasthole drills as well as a FlexiROC D50 and a FlexiROC D60, all from Atlas Copco

Karelsky Okatysh is owned by Severstal, the second largest producer of iron ore pellets in Russia, and one of the world’s most profitable steel producers. It is also one of Russia’s most modern mining operations, accounting for some 20 percent of the country’s iron ore.

Continuous efficiency

The company’s strategy is to not allow the fluctuating price of iron to affect its operations, but rather to increase production year on year through continuous efficiency improvement. Investments in lean technology and automation solutions have made a great contribution in the effort to meet this goal.

For example, when a hauler is loaded with rock, a sensor is able to measure the ore-to-waste ratio contained in the load. If the sensor detects less than 10 percent ore, the material is sent to waste; if the ore is rated in the 10-to-25 percentile, the ore is directed to the crusher, and if the load grade is more than 20 percent, the ore is transported to the railway and sent directly to the ore dressing plant.

Of the 35 Mt of ore produced each year, 10 Mt are crushed in the pit while 20 percent remains in the crushed tonnage.

“So far it has been excellent. Whenever a spare part is needed or a particular issue arises, the service technicians come up with a quick solution.”

Zakhar Pavlov, Mine Manager